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Hip Health

Arthroscopic Hip Surgery Not Always The Best Choice

Although patients over 60 with hip problems might choose minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery instead of a total hip replacement,  that may not always be the best option, according to a study by researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in Manhattan.

Analyzing patient databases from California and Florida, researchers looked at how many patients ended up needing a hip replacement within two years of arthroscopic hip surgery. The study, published in Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery, found that more than one-third of the patients ages 60 to 69 went on to have a hip replacement. Arthritis of the hip and obesity were also major risk factors, with a significantly higher number of these patients needing a hip replacement within two years.

“We launched the study because the use of arthroscopic hip surgery has grown tremendously in the last decade,” said William Schairer, MD, lead author. “Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the number of hip arthroscopies performed in the United States increased more than 600 percent.”

Hip arthroscopy was not a very common procedure 10 years ago. It is a difficult procedure technically to perform, according to David J. Mayman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at HSS and senior study author. “Over the last decade, the technology has improved and a lot more orthopedic surgeons have been trained to do it. More patients are also asking if they are candidates,” Dr. Mayman said. “One of the goals of our study was to determine the proper indications for arthroscopy. We found that a lot of arthroscopy was being done in people in whom the indications were not sound.”

Hip arthroscopy by an experienced orthopedic surgeon is an excellent procedure to treat hip impingement, labral tears and loose cartilage in the hip joint causing symptoms, according to the researchers. It is often performed in younger patients with the hope of relieving their symptoms and lowering their risk of future hip arthritis. Most studies to date have looked at arthroscopic hip surgery in this patient population, finding good results overall.

For the current study, HSS researchers identified 7,351 patients in the California and Florida databases who had arthroscopic hip surgery with a two-year follow-up from 2005 through 2012. Patients were divided into groups based on their age: those younger than 40; those ages 40 to 49; ages 50 to 59; 60 to 69; and 70 or older. Researchers also determined which patients had received a diagnosis of hip arthritis before arthroscopic surgery and identified those who were obese.

Only 3% of patients younger than 40 went on to have a hip replacement, compared to 35% of patients who were 60 to 69, the age group more likely to have arthritis. In addition to arthritis, obesity was found to be a major risk factor for needing a hip replacement within two years.

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